Abdel Bari Atwan’s 9/11 Report

……. Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London based Al-Quds Al-Qarabi,  wrote a long analytical piece analyzing the success or failure of the US war on terror.  Atwan’s views are very worth listening to for several reasons. 
1) As editor of Al-Quds he has major connections to people who are very close to the events, both from the sides that are favorable to the US and those that are opposed.  What I am saying is that he has acccess to the views/analysis of people from the Taliban/  that no Americans are going to get or even try to get.  So his analysis needs to be paid special attention.
2) He has major connections with the Islamist movements and has interviewed Bin Laden.  He also  wrote a very good book on Al-Qaeda.  
3) His paper is considered independent and is more intellectually consistent than bigger papers such as Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat. 

4) Also,  a couple weeks ago I had a  post  asking the question Why is the Taliban the enemy?  Some disagreed with my argument that the Taliban is not a natural enemy of the US so it could be manipulated into turning against Al-Qaeda.   Atwan’s  analysis supports my point.  For all of these reasons, I have translated the article.  I am not a translator, but the following can be considered a reliable (in the sense of capturing all the ideas)  chronological translation of the article:

Bootleg Translation of Atwan’s Article

Two years ago, Bush, and his ally Blair announced they they had discovered an Al-Qaeda plot to blow up a number of American airplanes using liquid bombs.  The British government led by Tony Blair, ally of Bush in the war against terror, arrested about 30 Britains from Muslim backgrounds, and took measures to stop liquids from going on planes, causing unprecedented confusion, as this came at the peak of summer travel season in Europe. 

At that same time, we at Al-Quds doubted or were speptical of this alleged conspiracy,  which should be seen in the framework of  US and European Islamophobia ,  and is used to justify Blair and Bush’s bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We also said that these two men, who are known for their religious fervor and hostility to Islam employed a politics of fear, with this airplane conspiracy being only the most prominent example.  Just yesterday an independent trial court rejected this conspiracy and acquited the accused in a trial that lasted for two years, costing the tax payers upwards of 50 million British pounds.

The trial revealed that these accused had never bought a ticket even gotten near a British airport… But journalistic reports confirmed that President Bush and his VP wanted some kind of victor to use in order to help Republican candidates in the 2006 Congressional Elections, and they found in this alleged/claimed conspiracy a priceless opportunity. 

Fabricating evidence is not something unusual for Bush or Blair.  Weren’t they the ones who fabricated evidence of a relationship between Saddam and Al-Qaeda? Or of Iraq’s relationship to uranium in Niger in order to justify their aggression against it?  Isn’t Tony Blair, now the Middle East peace envoy, the one who went before Parliament in dramatic form with the dossier that said they had reliable information that Saddam Hussein had WMD that he was capable of using against British and US forces in less than 45 minutes?

Noone denies the presence of Islamist extremist organizations which use terrorism and violence as a measure to fight against the West, reacting to its wars in Iraq and as revenge for its victims, like what happened in the London attacks three years ago. But perhaps we can also say that the threat from these groups is exaggerated by Security forces and popular newspapers to justify security measures and strong laws against Muslim communities in the West, portraying them as the source of all evil.

Thursday is the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which were the beginning of the war against terrorism and the occupation of Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the death of 1.5 million Muslims and Arabs, as well as the death of 4k American soldiers, and the loss of as much as 5 trillion dollars.  Perhaps the best way to measure its succes or failure is to look at what President Bush himself were the original goals:  the arrest or capture of the two leaders Mullah Omar and Bin Laden and the complete destruction of their two organizations, and to make the world safer and more peaceful.

The war on terror toppled the regimes of the Taliban and after the Saddam and the occupation of the two countries.  But it did not succeed in capturing either leader and did not make the world safer, but actually made it worse. Furthermore, the two movements have returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan and now have  control over most of the first and half of the second, and run training camps for new volunteers who numbers in the thousands.

The Al-Qaeda organization might have been exposed to a major setback in Iraq because of the Awakening Forces ( paid off by the Americans) and because of their takfir politics and emphasis on setting up an Islamic state, but perhaps this setback is just temporary, because the vast majority of its members of Iraqi, we have to consider how Tanzim Al-Qaeda was able to return  to Afghanistan five years after the destruction of its base at Tora Bora.   The theory of those who participated in the Awakening was at its roots, based on distinction between the Far Enemy (the US) and the Near Enemy (Iran) and the necessity of focusing on fighting the near enemy , considering it the greater danger, even if that means allying with the Far Enemy.  But this theory began to crumble after the Malaki government forced the US to stop funding the Awakening forces, and brought them under its influence and control.   This means that the 100k who fought with Al-Qaeda, then turned against them, now finds themselves as Pariahs and outcasts after they were used to establish the Occupation, but then were thrown in the trash like a used napkin

President Bush wants to use the Iraq Awakening model in Aghanisan, but despite its partial and temporary success there, it is difficult to see it succeed in Afg. not because the time is late but because the Taliban has imposed its control over Afghanistan and the American defeat has become certain.   US forces commit massacres and heavy handed actions on a daily basis, knowing that their program has failed and the the Taliban-Al-Qaeda victory is inevitable.  They resort to heavy handed aerial attacks but the leadership forgets that airborne bombardment can not settle the issue on the ground.  On the other hand, increasing the number of land forces (now at 37k) will only give the Taliban more targets to attack

America’s problem is bigger than Afghanistan, which is an unwinnable war.  The bigger problem is in Pakistianwhich is becoming quickly a failed state, which will inevitably fall in the hands of radical Islamistgroups or a military dictatorship with little popularity.  Notice how  71% of Pakistanis are opposed to cooperation with the US war on terror and 51% oppose the war against the Taliban according to a poll done last July by Gallup.   The Taliban in Pakistan constitute a greater threat than the Taliban in Afghanistan because it posses 80k fighters ready to due in suicide operations against Western forces.  American attacks against Pakistani tribal regions will only increase the popularity of extremist groups in Pakistan as these attacks are considered a violation of Pakistani national dignity and increase extremism.   And these suicide operations were unknown in Pak and Afg before 9/11 but now they are something normal thanks to the presence of AQ experts who first learned the trade in Iraq.

The first leader the new President Zardari met was  Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, which he did to confirm to Washington that he will stay a close ally in the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  But this man, who has spent 11 of the last 20 years in in jail on corruption charges is not going to stay in power long, and US support for him will only increase the power of the Taliban and AQ. It  certainly  will not weaken it.   The US administration might find cooperation from the high level officers in the Pakistani army, but the big problem is that the vast majority of lower level officers and soldiers have sheltered hostility, and this is what explains Al-Qaeda and Taliban penetration in the Presidential Security and the three attempted assassination attempts against Musharaf.

Perhaps the failure of the war on terror will be seen in upcoming months for several reasons:  One has to do with the reemergence of Russia and a new Cold War after the Georgia fighting and Moscow’s desire to return to Afghanistan to get revenge against the Americans for kicking them out previously, and Al-Qaeda’s success in making a return to Afghanistan, and rejuvenated Mujaheed from around the world, and maybe see a return of them going to Europe and maybe even America, as Afghanistan is surrounded by countries who are hostile with America which is not the case with Iraq.

Al-Qaeda has returned to Aghanistan in light of its alliance with the Taliban, “after the the West became a mutal enemy of both movements. But the Taliban was not an enemy of America and the West before the events of 9/11.  There was a wing, and it was the dominant wing requesting that Al-Qaedabe kicked out of Afghanistan. Now all the wings are united behind Al-Qaeda  against Washington and the West.”  Here is the exact quote: 

 وعادت الى افغانستان بيئتها وحاضنتها الطبيعية، وفي ظل تحالف اقوى مع طالبان، بعد ان اصبح الغرب عدوا مشتركا للطرفين، فطالبان لم تكن تعادي امريكا والغرب قبل احداث الحادي عشر من ايلول (سبتمبر)، وكان هناك جناح وهو الغالب فيها يطالب بطرد القاعدة من البلاد، الآن توحدت الأجنحة خلف ‘القاعدة’ وضد واشنطن والغرب

The upcoming days for America are going ot be tough, it had a golden opportunity to win over Muslim hearts and minds who sympathized with them following 9/11. It could have used this to try and settle the Isr-Pal conflict and support democracy and human rights but unfortunately it did the opposite of this completely.  By doing what it did, it just provided more havens for terrorism.

There are a number of points worth commenting on.  But for now I will simply return to my original argument- there is no reason that Taliban should be considered a natural enemy of the US.  They were not.  Lumping them together, when they could have sided with the US in kicking the  Al-Qaeda movement which was a threat to their local rule, was a major mistake.   The US had a golden opp that was blown, but I still see no reason why it couldn’t work.  Yes, it would entail admitting that seven years of effort was a complete waste, but it would probaly be more practical than staying and fighting the Taliban.

The Iraq Corner – September 2, 2008

Iraq’s Ministry of Interior is feeling pretty confident.  The general manager of operations told A-sharq al-Awsat that intelligence information gathered during recent arrests of suicide bombers (most famously the Iraqi teenager Rania) will enable MOI to permanently disrupt the network of suicide bombers in Diyala province.  He notes that AQ has turned to exploiting women and children and accuses AQI members of marrying teenage girls to gain control over them and force them to execute suicide attacks. 

After tensions between the Iraqi Army and its Kurdish population last week, ASAA reports that things have settled down in the mixed town of Khaniqin.   The Kurds have reached a peaceful agreement with Baghdad, things have returned to normal, and ASAA quotes individuals from Khaniqin’s various ethnicities as saying, at the most, that they support the inclusion of Khaniqin in the region of Kurdistan, and, at the least, that they do not oppose the inclusion of Khaniqin in the region of Kurdistan.  So it seems as though the most potentially destabilizing move would be for Baghdad to declare that Khaniqin was NOT part of Kurdistan. 

But while the situation on the ground has temporarily cleared up, the strategic picture remains muddled.  Comments made to ASAA by both Kurdish and Baghdadi parties demonstrate that the Kurds and Baghdad still have to come to terms on several major issues, such as 1)the legal rights of the Peshmerga* (ie what parts of Iraq they can deploy to) 2)the oil law and revenue sharing and 3)the status of Mosul (is it in Kurdistan or not?).  Granted, these issues will require lots of time to hash out, but the fact that the Iraqi government is not setting a timetable to settle these issues is discouraging.

On September 1, U.S. forces handed over security responsibilities in Anbar Province to the Iraqis.  Al Hayat reports a tense environment there.  Although AQ poses less of a threat then it once did, tensions exist between the Awakening Councils and the central government.  The Sunni political parties resent the Awakening Councils because AC members have started to engage in politics as well as security operations, a development that threatens the Sunni political parties.  The rest of Baghdad worries about the Awakening Councils because they are armed groups which exist outside the structure of the Iraqi government.  Members of the central government oppose absorbing the ACs into the Iraqi Security Forces because a)doing so would dilute the influence of factions currently holding power and 2)elements of the ACs have ties to Saddam’s regime. 

Ultimately, the central government won’t be able to stabilize Anbar without accomodating the Awakening Councils.  It would be near impossible.  The sooner Baghdad realizes this, the better the prospects are for sustainable calm in Anbar province. 

Last, while receiving The People’s Republic of China’s new ambassador, vice president Tariq Hashemi praised China’s decision to write off Iraq’s debt and called for stronger relations between the two countries.  According to as-Sabaah, Iraq is looking to attract investement in exploring and developing oil fields.